In October 2011, Dark Horse Manga released the first English volume of Gate 7, a new series from the all-female mangaka group known as CLAMP.

Gate 7 tells the story of high school student Chikahito Takamoto, a self-proclaimed lover of anything “ancient.” During the prologue, he lives in Tokyo but has always dreamed of visiting Kyoto to take in its historical sites. When he finally gets his wish, Chikahito has a more eventful visit than he could have ever imagined. His trip goes wrong when he finds himself in the middle of a battle between serpent monsters and a mysterious trio of magic users. The child-like warrior, Hana, and her teammates, Tachibana and Sakura, win the fight and take a blacked-out Chikahito to their home. Unable to learn why Chikahito is immune to their powers, Hana and her team let him leave.

Three months later, fate brings Chikahito back to Kyoto as a transfer student. While apartment hunting, he runs into Hana, Tachibana, and Sakura once more. After confirming that Chikahito is special in some way, they invite him to live with them. It isn’t yet clear if he’ll be able to help them in their battles against supernatural creatures, but it wouldn’t be surprising if that question becomes a major plot point. The story has definitely piqued my interest. The first volume ended on a cliffhanger, so I’m looking forward to reading the second volume when it is released this February. I do, however, hope that cliffhangers don’t become a habit.

So far, Chikahito and Hana have had the most character development. Chikahito is shy, naive, and bookish, possessing an encyclopedic knowledge of history. Hana is an adorable, noodle-obsessed girl, but she also has incredible skill as a warrior. Tachibana and Sakura remain more of a mystery, though Sakura seems to be the laid back one of the pair. In addition to these characters, the second and third chapters introduce Hidetsugu Toyotomi, a man who appears to have authority over Hana’s team. We still don’t know much about him, but for some reason, he wants Chikahito to join the group. I find all of the major characters introduced in this volume to be likeable, though I look forward to seeing Chikahito mature a little. In the prologue, it seemed like every other panel he was in showed him with tears in his eyes because he was so scared of everything that was happening.

Since this is a CLAMP series, I had high expectations for the art quality in Gate 7, and the first volume did not disappoint me. From the front cover to the two-page spreads before every chapter and every battle scene in between, this manga is full of lavish detail and gorgeous images. The characters are drawn in typical CLAMP style, with elongated torsos and limbs as well as bright eyes that are full of life. Though most of the character designs have a clear CLAMP flavor, I noticed that Chikahito bears a striking resemblance to Kimihiro Watanuki from xxxHolic, another work by the same group. In the translation notes at the end of the volume, it is even mentioned that Chikahito’s school, Tsuji Private School, uses the same kanji as Cross Private School, the one Watanuki attended. This could be purely coincidental, or it could be CLAMP creating a link to the rest of their universe as they’ve done with other titles in their repertoire. As for the actual print quality, the paper itself isn’t anything special, and the glossy cover is the only place you’ll find color.

I enjoyed the first volume of Gate 7 immensely, and it has succeeded in sucking me into the series. It is a dazzling work of art with a promising story line and intriguing characters. Hopefully, coming volumes will provide background information for the characters, explain why they fight these mystical creatures, and tell us more about Chikahito’s role is in all of this. For now, I’d say Gate 7 is most certainly a keeper, and I look forward to picking up the second volume after its February 29th release.

Story: ★★★★★★★★★☆
Art: ★★★★★★★★★☆
Characters: ★★★★★★★★☆☆
Quality: ★★★★★★★★☆☆
Intangibles: ★★★★★★★★★☆
Overall: ★★★★★★★★★☆

So how does our rating system work? Read more here.

(If you enjoy this series, you might want to try some of CLAMP’s other work. The group is also well-known for titles such as Tsubasa: Reservoir ChronicleMagic Knight Rayearth, and Chobits.)

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